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Do I Really Need to Wear a Retainer After Braces or Clear Aligner Treatment?


It’s the question on everyone’s mind as they near the end of their orthodontic treatment: do I really have to wear a retainer after braces or clear aligners? The answer: only if you want your teeth to stay straight!


As your Rancho Santa Fe and San Diego orthodontists, it’s our job not only to give you the smile you’ve always wanted, but to help you maintain the beautiful new smile you’ve spent the past months or years looking forward to. A retainer is a significant part of any orthodontic treatment plan and is absolutely necessary to guarantee your teeth stay straight for life.


In this post, Dr. Melanie Orthodontics will share:


  • Why it’s so important to wear a retainer after braces or clear aligners
  • The different types of orthodontic retainers
  • How often you need to wear your retainer


Purpose of Orthodontic Retainers


So you’re getting close to that exciting day when you get your braces off, or when you can put away your clear aligners for the very last time. You’re ready to finally enjoy your smile free from any appliances — but then your orthodontist tells you that you need to continue wearing a retainer for the foreseeable future. Trust us, this isn’t because we want you to be miserable. We’re as excited for your beautiful new smile as you are! But we want to help you keep your pearly whites perfectly straight for many years to come.


As you’ve experienced, your teeth go through a lot throughout your orthodontic treatment, as they gradually shift into the ideal alignment. Once the hardware comes off, it’s only natural that they want to move back to their original places, a process called orthodontic relapse. Orthodontic retainers prevent this from happening, guaranteeing your newly straightened teeth stay that way. Think of a retainer as an insurance policy for your teeth: it literally works to retain your teeth’s new positions.


3D Printed Retainers Made at Dr. Melanie Orthodontics

Types of Orthodontic Retainers


There are many different types of retainers available, each with its own benefits and disadvantages. Dr. Melanie can help you weigh your options to determine which kind of orthodontic retainer best suits your preferences and lifestyle.


Removable Retainers


The most common type of retainer are removable retainers, such as Hawley, Essix or Vivera retainers. Hawley retainers consist of a thin wire that runs along the front of your teeth to maintain their proper alignment. The wire is attached to a custom-fit piece of acrylic that fits inside the roof of your mouth, and you can customize the colors which makes this type of retainer a fun option for younger patients. Hawley retainers are very effective and super durable, but the wire means they’re also quite visible which can be a drawback for those looking for a more discreet retainer.


Fortunately, there are clear retainers that are made from a thin, clear plastic that can do all the same things as a Hawley retainer. Essentially, they look and function similar to clear aligners like Invisalign or 3M Clarity aligners. They’re nearly invisible, you can take them out to brush, floss and eat, and they can even make minor corrections to out-of-place teeth if you wear them consistently. And if you’ve just completed clear aligner treatment, wearing a clear retainer should feel like no big deal.


Popular clear retainers include Essix retainers or the Invisalign-made Vivera retainers, but at Dr. Melanie Orthodontics, we’re proud to say we make our patients’ retainers in-house. We have the state-of-the-art technology and expertise to design and print a custom, clear, removable retainer for you using our 3D printer. This means we can offer better control in designing your retainer and faster turnaround times.


Permanent Retainers


Permanent retainers are exactly what the name suggests: a retainer that stays fixed in place in your mouth. Your orthodontist will attach a thin metal wire to the back of your lower teeth which will then work to maintain your beautiful smile. This type of retainer is a great option for those at higher risk for orthodontic relapse, those who may forget to wear their retainer for the recommended amount of time, or those who want a completely invisible orthodontic retainer.



How Often Do I Need to Wear My Retainer?


Now you know why you need to wear your retainer, but it’s just as important to understand how to wear your retainer — specifically, how often. For the first few months after you complete your braces or clear aligner treatment, you will need to wear your retainer 24/7. Yes, really. It’s the only way to protect your investment in your smile and guarantee that your teeth stay straight for life.


But here’s the good news: after a few months, as your teeth adjust and get used to their new positions, they’ll become less reliant on the retainer to keep them in place. Eventually, your smile will become as strong as can be and you’ll only have to wear your retainer while you sleep.

If you’re getting close to wrapping up your orthodontic treatment and have questions about how retainers work or why you need one, the team at Dr. Melanie Orthodontics is here to help. Contact our San Diego or Rancho Sante Fe orthodontics office to talk about your options today.

Dr. Melanie

Author Dr. Melanie

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